It is getting more challenging by the day to manage a growing fleet of vehicles in light of rising costs, compliance directives, a tight labor market and ever-more-demanding customers.
That makes it increasingly important to optimize your fleet management and take advantage of sophisticated telematics systems that monitor, analyze, and automate the routine tasks you may still be doing manually.
When reviewing the fleet management products on the market today, there are six areas you should keep in mind when considering the best solution for your business – options that will help you do the following:
1. Save money on fuel
Fuel costs may have dropped in the past few years, but it still accounts for a huge portion of the fleet manager’s budget. Typically, fuel accounts for up to 60 percent of overall operating expenses1. By reducing fuel usage, you not only save money, you also help the environment.
With the right fleet management solution and GPS tracking, you can carefully monitor each vehicle’s usage and assess how driver performance and behavior (aggressive acceleration, idling for long periods, hard braking, etc.) affect consumption. Especially with larger fleet vehicles, idling for just a couple of hours a day can burn several gallons of fuel. A fleet of 100 trucks idling for two hours per day, 275 days per year, can cost up to $165,000 annually in wasted fuel2.
Tracking and analyzing this data alerts you to problem areas you can quickly address. An additional benefit is that by addressing aggressive driving, for instance, you can also deal with the safety considerations it raises and potentially reduce legal and operational costs associated with at-fault accidents.
Your fleet drivers should be trained from the day you hire them in what is expected of them when it comes to driving behavior and how it affects fuel usage, with a clear and understandable policy, and regular reminders.
2. Trim maintenance costs
Maintenance costs can account for up to 30 percent of your fleet’s operating budget, so reducing them should be a top priority3. When you stay ahead of maintenance issues, you ensure you have the vehicles and equipment you need ready at all times.
The trick is to take a preventive approach, not reactive. With a fleet management system, you can proactively extend the productive hours and usable lives of your vehicles. Sensors can tell you about engine and other diagnostic issues immediately, allowing you to address the problem before it gets more serious.
Rather than schedule maintenance based on an arbitrary calendar date, you can base it on accurate engine usage hours and automated service alerts. This eliminates unnecessary repairs and allows you to prioritize, thanks to alerts that flag you to urgent issues that might lead to vehicle or equipment breakdown and lost revenue.
3. Streamline workforce management
Your fleet management and telematics system should track drivers’ locations and the status of their job completion, making it unnecessary for you to have to reach out to them with distracting calls or texts.
This approach allows you to give drivers control over their daily routines and enhance job satisfaction amid a serious shortage of drivers in the industry. It also streamlines communications for drivers, and its electronic log monitoring capabilities help drivers manage their time more effectively. And it’s a great way to improve customer satisfaction. With workforce management, fleets can provide customers with more accurate estimates for shipment arrivals and it can help dispatch better plan for inbound and outbound logistics.
Upgrading your fleet management operations could end up making a difference between retaining your best people or losing them to competitors.
4. Optimize routes
If field teams struggle to follow their assigned schedules, it is tough to run a fleet business efficiently and profitably. Inaccurate arrival time estimates for deliveries are reputation killers, especially in today’s environment with customers not only demanding quick deliveries but expecting them in narrow time windows.
Whether your fleet is delivering to consumers or to businesses, you want to be known for quality customer service and to achieve that without spending most of your time monitoring route status.
With an advanced fleet management system you have near real-time visibility into vehicle location, what customer they’re heading for next, and an accurate arrival time. Real-time updates – typically automated with no manager involvement – can help adapt to the inevitable traffic slowdowns and bottlenecks and make sure that drivers are always taking the most efficient route.
And if there are hiccups along the way that affect scheduled arrival times, customer notifications can be automated. These systems can reduce a lot of the daily stress when it comes to route management.
5. Automate workflows
If you’re still using paper-based systems, it’s time to leave them behind. A digitized workflow will help improve time management for your fleet manager, reducing the risk of human errors and miscommunications. A system that uses data analytics can deliver up to a 12 percent reduction in fleet costs, according to a McKinsey study4.
Automating tasks such as sending jobs to drivers, invoicing and billing customers, and routing and scheduling deliveries can take a heavy burden off a manager’s shoulders. In addition, these systems can manage operating expenses and create service and maintenance reminders as needed.
For instance, often drivers need customers and others to fill in forms and checklists. With mobile forms capabilities, drivers can easily track, store, and share data, making life easier for customers and eliminating unnecessary paperwork. Integrating mobile forms with fleet management ensures the whole process moves more smoothly.
6. Ensure safer operations
Unsafe behavior doesn’t just endanger your drivers, it also puts other drivers at risk and can damage your fleet, leading to costly repairs. Safer driving translates to lower insurance premiums, fewer traffic tickets, less accidents, and reduced legal problems.
Fleet management systems with in-vehicle sensors enable you to improve driver safety and overall performance, reduce risks, and communicate safely. Sensors track speed, driving styles, idling, unscheduled stops, out-of-route miles, and more. The data you get allows you to coach drivers as needed to ensure safety.
When fleet vehicles are monitored, drivers are actually more likely to follow their companies’ policies, traffic laws, and industry regulations. And if you add artificial intelligence to your fleet monitoring, you can help reduce distracted driving. With in-vehicle cameras and devices an AI-based solution continuously assesses driver behavior, the road ahead, and the vehicle, automatically “nudging” the driver with when it detects distracted driving concerns.
3Fleetio, Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership for Your Fleet
4McKinsey, How disruptive technologies are opening up innovative opportunities in services